Jane Macdougall: The Bookless Club is definitely awake

The bedroom window is contentious territory.

Young male couch listen headphones mobile phone at home. Stock Image. Getty Images/iStock Photo

On the connubial battleground, the bedroom window is contentious territory.

One person will want it open, the other person will want it closed.

This dynamic is written in the stars long before you lean in for a kiss. Mother Nature has a wicked sense of humour.

The definition of “open just a crack” sees troops aligned on either side of the debate. Expect tape measures and telemetry. Expect debate and description of weather conditions in support of each person’s position regarding said window.

“But it’s Jannnnuuuary!”

“Gosh, but isn’t it mild!”

My secret maneuver is to agree, then covertly, on tip-toe, under cover of darkness, throw open the window as wide as it will go once my adversary is asleep.

I can do this.

You see, I’m up.

I’m up all night long.

I’m staring at the ceiling.

I’m revisiting and revising choices made at any point in my life.

Dodgeball, circa grade six: Go low, and don’t knock Kelly’s glasses off.

This is a problem I’ll work on tonight.

Pretty sure I’ve got some free time around 3 a.m.

Jane Macdougall is a freelance writer and former National Post columnist who lives in Vancouver. Her garden is her major distraction during COVID-19. She will be writing on The Bookless Club every Saturday online and in The Vancouver Sun.

This week’s question for readers:

Sleep, glorious sleep! How are you doing in the sleep stakes? Any tips for insomniacs?

Send your answers by email text, not an attachment, in 100 words or less, along with your full name to Jane at We will print some next week in this space.

Responses to last week’s question for readers:

Do you have a favourite or a unique sandwich recipe?

• As far as I’m concerned, the best sandwich ever is on the days following Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter dinner. Start with a hearty bread (such as multigrain or sourdough) with a slathering of mayo and dijon mustard. Layer leftover sliced turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. If using dry white meat, you might choose to dip the turkey into the leftover gravy. You might consider a brief zap in the microwave just to take the chill off the fillings. I know turkey dinner purists will be horrified, but I’d rather eat this meal in sandwich form the next day than plated the night before.

Michele Libling

• I was basically raised on peanut butter sandwiches. Growing up in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where peanuts were a main crop, I was sent to school everyday with a PB sandwich for my lunch, and I loved it — every day. Somehow, I never tired of it. To this day, a PB sandwich is still my all-time favourite, preferably between two slices of the grainiest, seediest bread available, with a generous portion of crunchy lettuce. I have eaten these in the most memorable of places — on mountaintops, in beautiful pristine snow on cross-country ski trips, and anywhere else there is a gorgeous view or natural setting. Somehow, PB sandwiches taste even better in the great outdoors.

Carlie Holland

• My favourite was a baloney, green pepper and peanut butter on caraway seed rye bread. Be sure to have a beer nearby to flush with in case of a jamming in the throat. My ex-wife was a chef and you can’t imagine what she thought of this mass.

Bob White

• Bread. Vegemite. Tomatoes. Pepper. Yer done!

M. Collins

• Many years ago in my hometown Dawson Creek, there was the Alaska Cafe run by Heidi and Charles Kucharski-Kardos. They served a Dagwood sandwich I ate faithfully every Friday. I can’t remember everything that was in it, but I do know it contained raw onions and ham piled on grilled French bread. My mouth waters thinking of it. Charles and Heidi were famous for another reason: They shut down their cafe for a few days when each of their three daughters was born. Unheard of in those days.

Cathie Roy

• It may be a bit crazy, but I have been eating the same lunch for approximately 47 years, aside from the times I was travelling through Southeast Asia and another while in Japan. Aside from that, I still have the same lunch every day, and usually after I say to myself: “What a great lunch.” One sandwich is a cheese (melted when possible), tomato, lettuce and avocado sandwich on Russian Rye or whole grain bread (occasionally alfalfa sprouts have been added as well). The second sandwich is my standby natural crunchy peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole grain bread. In the early days (1970s), I used to have the peanut butter and honey on half a sandwich and hardboiled egg and lettuce on the other half, but I decided that was too much work when the peanut butter and honey was so good. The bonus is that I’ve recently gone back to making my own whole grain bread, which is my late mother’s recipe. When a sandwich tastes that good, why change?

Tom Barichello

• My mom worked as a cook at a 24-hour cafe at Burrard and Second Avenue in Vancouver in the 1950s. A favourite on the menu was a Johnny’s Special. For 70 years it has been a “go to” for a quick meal for my family. In a small fry pan, saute sliced onions in a little butter until lightly browned. Place an egg on top and cook to desired firmness. Toast bread and slice tomatoes. Assemble with egg, onions and tomatoes. Some like to add mayo, but it is great without. The flavour is amazing and it is a satisfying fast-food meal.

Thelma Bell

• My favourite is a toasted sardine and onion. Toasted multigrain bread (four slices), spread on one face with mayonnaise. A can of soya-based oil sardines, spread over the mayonnaise (two and a half sardines per face). Pepper is added at this point and then topped with thinly sliced raw onions (sweet ones when in season). Cover with remaining slices and slice in half. Yum! Yum!

Lorne Pawluk

• I have a favourite and unique sandwich, or as my friends call it, a “You reek” sandwich — peanut butter and onion. You can use whatever your favourite peanut butter is, but to make it superb and unique, you must use a generous slice of Maui onion, or if you can’t find one, use a Walla Walla onion. I now understand why my friends call it “You reek.” Now that we have to wear masks, I just about gassed myself when I went out for a walk after eating my favourite sandwich. As Mikey used to say: “Try it. You’ll like it!”

Alice Samworth

• A colleague of mine was serving a tour of duty (with USAID) in Karachi, Pakistan. She was rushing to get to work, it was the cook’s day off, so she asked the ayah to make her a sandwich. The ayah asked her what a sandwich was, and she said two slices of bread with something in between. Much to her chagrin, when we sat down to lunch, she discovered that she had two slices of bread with a papadum (flatbread) in between!

Coralie Schellhase

• My favourite sandwich is oh so yummy. Start with two slices of toasted whole-wheat or multigrain bread, lightly buttered. Then mayonnaise on one side and mashed avocado on the other. On top of the mayo, thinly sliced rings of red onion, followed by sliced tomato and a slice of cheddar. On top of the cheddar is the special ingredient — an over-easy fried egg, with the yolk still runny. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Put the avocado piece on top, cut in half, and dig in. Delicious!

Dale Boivin

• Actually, this sammie is only one of several, but in the top five. Start with a thick-sliced, whole-grained type bread, toasted and rubbed with a garlic clove. A heavy smear of grainy mustard on the bottom slice, then extra thin slices of rare roast beef. A dollop of horseradish, then shaved sweet onion and a generous helping of arugula. And a helping of good mayo on the top slice next to the arugula. Heavenly.

Terri Clark-Kveton

• When I was a young girl I shared a bedroom with my next-oldest sister, who was six years older. She always found ways to amuse and entertain me, so I have always adored her. She had a vivid imagination, which made her culinary exploits exciting but sometimes a bit nasty. A sandwich she invented that we actually enjoyed was made with white bread, peanut butter (the cheap kind), Miracle Whip (not plain mayo, that wouldn’t do at all) and iceberg lettuce (the only lettuce we knew about at the time). Today, I don’t think I would enjoy eating that for lunch, but as a child I thought it was magical, but likely only because my amazing sister made it for me.

Denise Howell

Grad dance: Anticipate blow dryer failure. Have back-up apparatus.

Emerald green carpeting: Not bold; restrictive. There’s a reason people pick neutrals.

There should be a bedtime expression to equal “esprit d’escalier,” meaning the brilliant retort that you think of as you’re on the stairs leaving the party. I call it “esprit etre au lit.” My French may not be perfect, but the idea is spot on: the vastly better idea that keeps you awake at night.

I vacillate between these sorts of self-recriminations and the math problems that only the sleep deprived know of:

“If I fall asleep now, I’d get 4.25 hours of sleep before the alarm goes off.”

“If I fall asleep now, then I’d get 3.5 hours of sleep by the time the alarm goes off.”

Like I said, I’m up.

So, you see, I can open the window and then I can close the window long before the subterfuge is detected. From all observable evidence, his sleep is undisturbed by the offending breeze. Case in point: He’s kicked most of the covers to the floor. Indeed, he can fall asleep on an ice floe or a lava flow. His sleep would be undisturbed by a runaway gravel truck barreling through the bedroom. Can’t sleep with the window open, my eye!

Dr. Matthew Walker declaims that sleep is the “Elixir of life.” No argument here. A week of sleeplessness has me defaulting to that vastly inferior elixir: coffee. Dr. Walker authored the book, Why We Sleep, explaining what MRIs and the like have revealed about what the brain does when we enter the arms of Morpheus, which is a fancy way of saying, when we’re sleeping. As a neuroscientist at the Center for Human Sleep Science at UC Berkeley, he’s especially qualified to make these proclamations. Unfortunately for me, he champions regularity — going to bed and rising at the same time every day. Our circadian rhythm is like a trained seal that responds well to patterns. He also, however, makes the case for keeping the bedroom at a refreshing 68 degrees Fahrenheit — that’s about 20 degree Celsius for us. I prefer something somewhat brisker, but let’s not quibble over a degree or two. The idea is that the brain and the body need to drop their core temperature in order to fall asleep and to stay asleep. So you see my predicament? I have to disrupt my circadian rhythm in order to stay awake long enough to open the window to achieve the optimal drop in temperature.

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